I’m working on a blog post about yoga, both the philosophy of it and some resources for those who wish to try it. I’m not an expert or certified yoga instructor, but rather I’m writing from the perspective of someone who has practiced off and on for about 20 years now. I hope it will be helpful to those who want to get started, or to refresh their practice.
In the process of writing that post, I thought it would be helpful to tell the story of my journey with yoga. Sort of a prologue or prequel, I guess. Here goes.
I first discovered yoga when I was living in Bangor, Maine in 1994. I’d decided to take some exercise classes at the local YWCA to get in shape. I saw Hatha Yoga on the schedule and decided to try it out. I fell in love with it immediately. Quester and I shared a vehicle at the time. We’d get out of work and I’d rush around to get ready, hurrying to the Y, making absolutely certain I’d be 5 or 10 minutes early, as the teacher advised. Quester thought it was really odd that I’d be stressing out so that I could get somewhere in time to relax. I guess that did sound sort of absurd. Then I got him to attend with me during the next session. He fell in love with it too.
We weren’t late anymore, and we took yoga classes there twice a week for the next few years. Our teacher was wonderful and nurturing, and we went each summer to her annual weekend yoga retreat on the ocean. We made friends in yoga class, and became part of a local yoga community.
I took yoga classes right through my first pregnancy in 1996, and continued during my second one in 1999 (though with different teachers by then, as we moved to Portland in 1997).
Yoga helped me learn to be more centered and less anxious. I’m one of those “highly sensitive people,” and yoga gave me a way to rejuvenate my energies when I was feeling drained or overwhelmed. Yoga led me to meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhist ideals. Much of what I learned seemed intuitive, like I’d known it all along, someplace deep within. I’m sure I’ve lived as a yogi in India in at least one past life. I identified spiritually as a Pagan, yet my path was heavily influenced by the yogic ideals and practices. In fact, for a while I described myself as “an eclectic Pagan with Buddhist sensibilities.”
It took me about ten years, though, before I developed a consistent home yoga routine.
One reason is that my yoga teachers always talked about practicing in the morning, before you start your day. I’ve been a confirmed night owl all my life, and getting up any earlier than absolutely necessary, even for my beloved yoga, was simply not gonna happen.
I also had two little kids by then, and doing yoga at home while they were awake could be fun (especially watching ElvenTiger effortlessly twist herself up into a pretzel), but certainly wasn’t relaxing. I did continue to attend a weekly class, this one specifically for women, with a friend who also had a young child. It was a weekly friend date and self-care commitment, and we had a great group of women to practice with.
When the lightbulb went off, finally, I realized I could do my home yoga practice at night, before bed. It was a fantastic idea, and I did that for several years, up until I quit my full-time job in 2008 and started working at home. Most of the yoga I’ve practiced has been Kripalu yoga, and that fall I gifted myself a week-long retreat, all by myself, at the American headquarters, the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Massachusetts. It was such a delight. I still sigh just thinking about it.
We had to scale back our family expenses when I left my job, so I haven’t taken regular classes since then. Instead, I focused on my home practice, fortified with taped classes from a favorite teacher, DVDs of various types of yoga, books, and copies of Yoga Journal magazine. Around that same time, my friend and I added a more in-depth, focused study of yoga philosophy to our routine, and that helped expand my love of yoga, meditation, and its connection with Buddhist philosophy as a whole.
I’ve fallen in and out of regular yoga practice in the past few years, but my love for this ancient philosophy and practice has never faltered. For the past six weeks I’ve been practicing nearly every day (at least 5 days per week, and often more). Yoga is changing my life once again. As always, it enhances not only my physical health, but also my mental clarity, emotional equanimity, and spiritual connection.
Yoga is an intrinsic part of who I am, and has helped me on my spiritual path through most of my adult life. That’s why I’ve taken to saying that yoga is my best friend.